The return of rain in the last few days has been welcomed by most farmers, with grass growth having slowed to a crawl. Although the rain was welcomed, it is important to remember that we are not out of the woods just yet. The rain that has fallen in some areas was not enough to correct soil moisture deficits. Grass will not suddenly return to the levels required to stop the buffer feeding of cows that has been happening on farms across the country; a lag is to be expected.
Growth rates are expected to reach 51kg DM/ha in Leinster, 51kg DM/ha in Munster, 55kg DM/ha in Connacht and 56kg DM/ha in Ulster this week. This means growth is just above demand on many dairy farms. For example, three cows/ha, eating approximately 16kg of grass, equates to a demand of 48kg of DM/ha/day. You should continue to buffer feed and keep rotation length at 25 days if grass growth remains slow. Only stop buffer feeding when there is enough grass built up ahead of the cows. Stopping buffer feeding now, for it to be introduced again, will only lead to upset cows and fluctuations in production.
The advice has not changed: continue to walk the farm every five to seven days to determine growth rates. Grass walking is the only way you will be able to make management decisions regarding grazing; without grass walking you are only guessing. Average farm cover should be above 160kg/cow to 170kg/cow before buffer feeding is stopped.
If you are buffer feeding cows, continue to do so until you have reached these figures and you are comfortable that you have enough grass ahead of the cows. Once this happens, buffer feeding should be stopped and concentrate feeding rates should be reduced to match grass growth rates.